After a practical eternity, Southwestern wunderkind Zach Condon has finally reemerged with his first album since 2007. Released on his own artist-run label, The Rip Tide represents the largest leap yet for his signature melange of indie and Old World folk. Here, the filigree has been ebbed to more nakedly display the songwriting. Intriguing textures still abound but the proportions are mindfully subservient to the overall song. And, in fact, the more judicious arrangements are lighter and more agile for it, allowing his warm humanity to swoon in unexpectedly uplifting melodies.
Highlights include the beautiful waltz of “East Harlem,” the gorgeously majestic stomp of “Vagabond” and the slow-blooming heartbreaker “Goshen.” But the album’s revelations are the perfect “A Candle’s Fire” and “Santa Fe,” a synth-pop song at heart that’s unafraid to be great in its simplicity.
Some will miss Beirut’s bewitching detail. But like a more finished Neutral Milk Hotel, this is proof that Condon’s songwriting does indeed have the beef and this clarity of proportion marks his progress as a composer. Not only does it show that Beirut can transcend its ethno-historic trappings if it wants to, but it brings Condon’s pop ability into crystal focus. And that’s a great thing, because his extraordinary melody craft and expression are now ultimately revealed to be the real puppeteers behind the lacework all along.
Beirut is playing at the Georgia Theatre on Thursday, Dec. 8.
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